16 January 2014

Thursday Throwdown: The January Transfer Window

Sam Burgess: So, a successful start to 2014 then. And of course, the start of every new year means the January transfer window. Let's come at this from an Arsenal-POV: Arsène Wenger is famously against the winter window - what do you think of it, Andy? Should it be scrapped in favor of a return to the old system? Can a club actually do decent business in January?

Andrew Klema: In theory, the January transfer window is a reasonable idea. Midway through the season clubs get a chance to reassess their personnel and decide if they want to dip into the market, either to cover for injuries or to take a step up in quantity. However in practice it becomes an adventure in the absurd because of all the media rumors, fan demands, and the general disconnect from reality. A shrewd negotiator with an eye for talent can of course find players that can fit well into the team, but they (and we) must wade through a mountain of bull in order to do so.

Is Arsène looking to add to his squad?
fansshare / CC License
That being said, it does act as a magnet for all the crazy so that distraction isn't there throughout the entire season. It makes things a little more inflexible but by doing that it concentrates the time frame and gives clubs stability for the rest of the season. I would be open to arguments to the contrary but for now I don't think it should be scrapped in favor of allowing transfers all season long. Sam, if you accept my decision on the window, do you think Arsenal should be doing business this January? And if so then in what area(s)

Sam: I agree with you on that. Being able to sign players all year round wouldn't prevent them from being cup-tied, nor would it mean that any player is any more available to be signed. Most of the top clubs will still be negotiating outside of the window anyway; the window itself is basically for getting for the paperwork through on time. Though, it does make you wonder why deadline day can be so frantic (we'll come to that later).

To answer your question, I think Arsenal should at least be looking. We always hear how much faith Wenger has in his squad, but personally - and especially with some of the recent injuries - I would like to see some reinforcements both at the back and up front. Once you get past Thomas Vermaelen, there isn't really a Premier League-quality center back, so that's an area I believe could use strengthening. I've been massively impressed with Olivier Giroud this season, and Nicklas Bendtner scoring can only be a good thing, but I'd worry if we had to play Bendtner for too long. A long-winded way of saying a decent back-up striker would be nice - we had Park on the bench at Villa yesterday! How about you? Any areas you'd like to see a new recruit in? And do you believe any of the rumors (Diego Costa, Mario Mandzukic, etc)?

Andrew: My biggest concern with the January transfer window is always that Arsenal purchases talent they'll actually need outside of the next four months. The media loves to poke fun at Arsene for keeping the faith in his squad and only wanting to buy "top, top talent," but when you decide to just bring anyone in you pay for it later. Quite literally. This past summer the club did an excellent job shipping off most of the dead weight on the team and it would be folly to make panic buys this January to put Arsenal right back where they were. I'm all for buying if it is a good buy for the squad, but January doesn't always offer those types of players.

I hear what you're saying about the center back and agree that it's a definite need for the future, but no one jumps out at me that might actually be available. I fully admit to not knowing every angle of the market but logic seems to dictate that there are very few clubs who could afford to sell (or loan) a player that has the quality to start for Arsenal at that position. And that's what the Gunners need from an incoming transfer, not just injury insurance. Someone who they would have the confidence in to play ably in an FA Cup match, or a midweek game against a lower table opponent. I don't see that player out there now, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Striker is another story altogether. I've heard all the rumors from Costa to Mandzukic to Jackson Martinez and even Miroslav Klose. However it's hard to tell what might have some truth behind it and what is just a journalist picking a player that roughly fits the criteria of Arsenal's needs. I think it's unlikely that we will find a world class striker to start ahead of Giroud, so the key is not to overpay for someone to back him up. If someone like Klose is available for cheap to fill-in, or if Alvaro Marata is available on a reasonable loan, I can see Arsene making the move. The player that intrigues me the most is Julian Draxler of Schalke. He is a player that has the talent to play for Arsenal at all times and he is versatile enough that he can fill several different needs. Plus it would be icing on the cake if Tottenham sending Louis Holtby back to Schalke allowed the German club to sell us Draxler. But at this point so much of this is hearsay and it's tough to get the hopes up too high. Do you have one of those dream signings that might actually happen in reality, or an ideal buy that fills a need at this juncture?

Could Draxler be the next Arsenal star?
Evening Standard / CC License
Sam: I'm glad you mentioned Draxler, as that's one that has been picking up pace recently - although he's just been ruled out until March at least, so that one may have to wait until summer. It's interesting to hear that, apparently, Wenger wants to turn him into a center forward, like he did with Thierry Henry and He Who Must Not Be Named. From everything I've seen/heard of him, he seems to fit the mold of someone like Cazorla or Ozil more than Henry, and I wouldn't say we needed another attacking midfielder. Though, I wouldn't be upset (understatement!) if that scenario came to pass. He looks like a class player and you can never say no to someone like that. And of course, any scenario where Spurs are made to look stupid is wonderful!

You've covered my thoughts on CB there, and I'm with you 100% on the striker situation. Most of the names mentioned would be cup-tied - though that might not be much of an issue due to facing Bayern Munich in the first knockout round! - and how would Giroud feel if, after all his good work this season, Arsène went out and signed someone like Costa? For me, it would have to be someone like Morata who could come in on loan, and wouldn't displace Giroud in the starting XI. Dream signings? I would pay out of the nose for Lukaku! Strength, pace, finishing... how did Mourinho not make him his new Drogba?!

Realistically, though, I can't see anyone coming in, as of yet, but we'll see what happens by January 31. Which leads me nicely to deadline day! I wrote about it last week, but what are your thoughts? Can you see any reason why clubs leave it so late? Also, what's the American soccer fan's POV? In England it's almost become a national holiday/obsession!

Andrew: I will not claim to be an authority on Draxler but I have seen Schalke play a good amount and I feel he is a more aggressive midfielder than someone like Cazorla or Ozil. Both of those players excellent at controlling the ball, finding space, and making the right,sometimes killer, pass. Draxler is more of the Hazard mold, a player that can attack off the dribble from the wing as well as create for teammates in tight spaces. Though some Arsenal players may develop into that role (Serge Gnabry comes to mind), Draxler is suited for it already and he has the ability to play center forward. You're correct that his injury may keep this from being a January deal, unless Arsene feels he will receive a discount of some kind compared to the summer, but I think that is the name that has interested me the most.

We seem to be on the same page regarding the striker situation (save perhaps Lukaku being my dream singing), so let's move onto Deadline Day. I think clubs have a variety of strategies during the window. Some like to do their business early and set the market for the rest of the league, while others believe that there are deals to be had if you are willing to wait for teams in need to get panicky. I think the "right" strategy is often dependent on the market but there will always be those who need to make a splash or get something done at the end, hence the Deadline Day craziness. As an American soccer fan, we have the blessed ability to receive as much or as little news as we like. It won't be leading Sports Center or dominating the headlines of the major websites so we don't get inundated with coverage like over in England, but that also means we have to reach out for the coverage. Twitter will certainly blow up on that last day and it's easy to follow live blogs from ESPNFC or the Guardian to get our fix. It's an interesting balance to have and one that I'm perfectly comfortable with. I'm sure you've noticed the difference since moving to Boston, so which style do you prefer?

Sam: I'm on record as being hugely cynical of deadline day, yet I will let myself get dragged in if there are Arsenal rumors floating around. I've only experienced one deadline day in the US so far, and it was relatively peaceful. Like you say, I just had Twitter and BBC Sport's live feeds rolling throughout the day. It was a more pleasant experience than having Sky Sports News cramming any and every rumor possible down your throat. As I've said before, it's a bit overblown, and it's mainly because of Sky. They seem to have encouraged us Brits to go wild for it - I don't imagine you'd get a scene like this at the NBA or NHL trade deadline. It actually felt quite civilized following it all last year from Boston; the time difference allowed me to catch deals that may have been finalized or announced just after midnight UK time as it was still early evening here.

Ok, well I think we've covered everything there. We've got just over 2 weeks left to see what Arsène does. For now, attention turns towards the Fulham game on Saturday. COYG.

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